Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Business School Leaders for tomorrow
Back to Index 30 March 2016

Another two MBA full-time students to study abroad at ESB, Germany in 2016

Two full-time NMMU MBA students became only the second group of MBA students to be given the opportunity to study abroad at the European School of Business (ESB) at Reutlingen University in Germany. The two students, Yolanda Colesky (YC) and Grant Greyling (GG), were selected to complete their MBA elective modules at one of Europe’s foremost business schools, the European School of Business (ESB) at Reutlingen University in Germany.


Studying abroad allows students to not only network internationally and experience education in another country, but offers one the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. It is indeed an experience that changes lives.


We asked the students a few questions on why they decided to study at NMMU and what they are anticipating to experience at the ESB:


Why did you decide on NMMU as your ideal study destination in 2015?

GG - I had no intention of doing an MBA in 2015. I had attended many talks about various MBA programmes all over the country since I was about 21, only to come to the justification that I could take the money and start a business. If it failed, well, I would have learnt some ‘MBA’ lessons I figured. This was my rationale for not doing an MBA and I thought I was very clever. At the age of 30, I still hadn’t started a business (and was deeply in debt) however I had spent a lot of time ‘thinking’ about starting a business. In late 2014, I decided to take my voluntary severance package as I had a feeling that I could do something better with my life. What that was exactly, I had no clue. I had no job lined up or no business interests. I came to visit my family in Port Elizabeth and one morning, with my diary empty and my wallet feather light, I decided to pop into Barney’s pub to get some inspiration. After leaving Barney’s pub I strolled past the Billabong store at the Boardwalk to compare surfboard prices. A young salesman, David Allan assisted me and was very knowledgeable. He went on to tell me that he was the group retail manager and he managed 16 Billabong stores including Mauritius. We got chatting about the ownership structure of the business and the brands under the Billabong umbrella. Billabong shareholders included the Vanguard Group (which manages $3.0 trillion in assets) and BlackRock, the largest money manager in the world, with $4.5 trillion under management. I was inspired and my day was looking up. As I was walking out the Boardwalk (I had no car) I was in two minds whether I should investigate the new ‘green’ Business School to see what ‘green’ really meant. I made it as far as the foyer before security told me I needed an appointment as I wasn’t allowed to just walk around. So I told the security lady I would like to make an appointment. I was actually only interested in the LCD display indicating how much power the Business School had generated from its PV panels. The security lady then said I could see Ms Yondela Madlingozi on the 2nd floor. So I popped up to see Yondela as I figured I had nothing else to do. Yondela told me about the MBA program and that I had 3 days to apply. Yondela was friendly and professional. She emailed the application form to me straight away. The following day my brother-in-law convinced me to do my MBA as we had often spoken about it whilst fishing together. In summary, it was a journey. I am extremely grateful to be at NMMU Business School. I have never experienced such a high calibre of teaching in my University career. I completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Cape Town (UCT).


YC - I decided early on that I wanted to do a full-time MBA. With a husband and two young, school going children at home; part-time study was not a realistic option for me. I gave myself two years to complete my studies. With that decision made we also took the decision that we were prepared to relocate in order to attend the university that best fulfilled my needs. This gave me the opportunity to evaluate all the Business Schools and MBA programmes South Africa has to offer. The NMMU MBA programme immediately caught my interest as evening and weekend classes enable me to spend time, in the afternoons, with my boys while using the mornings to study and prepare for the lectures. Further study of the online material available to me, helped in assuring me of the excellent quality of the facilities and lecturers and that the NMMU MBA programme is a fully accredited MBA. While also not always appreciated, Port Elizabeth is a lifestyle choice destination. A coastal city (with all that entails), good infrastructure (I don’t regret not having the hours of tedious travelling to and from classes I would have to endure at any of the traditional “big cities”), a choice of excellent schools in the bay area for my children and a very favourable cost of living index all contributed towards making the decision to study at NMMU much easier.


What factors influenced you when deciding on the ideal MBA programme?

YC - As mentioned above, for me, academic content, location and affordability were very important when deciding on the ideal MBA programme. However, even if located in paradise and very affordable, an MBA without the right academic content is time and opportunity wasted. Yes, I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of a big city in order for me to concentrate my efforts on my studies but after two years of studying I also require an MBA that will have given me the tools to be a good business manager. I have very high expectations and goals and the NMMU MBA programme matched my expectations and requirements for a quality MBA. Once I was certain that the academic content was challenging and encompassed my requirements I was free to explore the advantages of the location and affordability of the NMMU programme.


GG - I went to a pre-MBA talk where one of the previous MBA students, Dean Hastie said that the reason he studied at NMMU was because of the ‘golden thread of leadership’ which ties everything together. That for me was a selling point as I knew at the time I was not leading myself, never mind others.


How have you grown, personally and professionally, since starting the NMMU MBA programme?

GG - Personally - I am taking control of my life again and I am excited about the future. I was pretty depressed and wasn’t living with purpose prior to the MBA.


Professionally – I feel like I have started to scratch the surface with regards to leading self and others.

 YC - It is not yet possible to answer how I have grown professionally as that will only be measureable once I return to work but personally, I have grown beyond measure. My husband often jokes that he now has to fight for the business section of the newspaper and that I have developed a whole new dimension to my personality. Personally, I think the biggest change can be ascribed to one factor: confidence. Having not formally studied for nearly 20 years the challenge of studying was daunting. Family, friends and colleagues all knew what I was undertaking and the pressure on me not to fail was immense. It was difficult at first as I had to “learn” how to study again, while juggling motherhood and homemaking, but with each little success came a greater desire to learn and I soon found that I was enjoying the process of learning to such a degree that studying no longer became a chore and the hunger for more knowledge insatiable. Confidence to ask more questions and the confidence of knowing that my opinion has value has spilt over into other walks of life. The MBA programme has widened my mind and my horizons.


Which module do you feel has challenged your thinking the most?          

YC - Leadership Development (LDP 1) with Prof Frans Bezuidenhout. Initially, I could not understand why this subject was included in the course material. After all, I enrolled to study my MBA to better understand the business world, not to analyse myself! It was only after the third assignment that I had my lightbulb moment. I realised that if I could not understand myself, within the business environment and my potential role within a team, how could I possibly manage people and the role they play within the business environment. It was tough but worth it. We, my MBA team mates and I, learned about the strengths and weaknesses of each other and we were able to grow individually and as a team, in leaps and bounds, towards the end of the year.


GG - Prof Frans Bezuidenhout’s Leadership model really challenged me to take ownership of my life. This module encouraged me to face my strongholds head on. The tools I learnt continue to challenge my thinking when I interact with others.


Why did you decide on the European School of Business as the ideal study abroad destination?

GG - I think it is a great opportunity to expand my thinking and increase my network.


YC - The world economy is becoming more and more entwined. With that in mind, if available, the opportunity to study abroad cannot be discounted. The South African economy (even more the Bay economy) is closely linked to the German economy and the German tradition for quality and excellence is renowned so, when the chance presented itself to study at the European School of Business I actively pursued the opportunity. Although ESB is currently the only exchange option offered by NMMU for MBA students I am very happy with this and intend to make the most of this opportunity.


What do you anticipate on gaining from this experience?

YC - Not only do I believe that I will benefit from the course content and physically studying at Reutlingen University, but I expect the exposure to all the other international students studying at the Business School to be especially rewarding. This will afford me the opportunity to experience a wide variety of cultures and to interact and network with business students from across the globe. This will be an amazing experience to learn from, and about, the many different outlooks and schools of thought prevalent in the global business environment and how students from around the world perceive the modern business world. It will also be a privilege for me to be representative of the South African business school environment and to present our unique African challenges and how we attempt to solve them. On a different level it will also be interesting to see the different way in which a foreign university approaches the education of their business students.


GG - I hope to find future business partners. I also hope to learn German and understand a new culture.


What advice would you give prospective MBA students regarding workload, class debate, etc.?

GG - Take ownership of your group work. Spend time developing a solid group charter. Plan ahead. Get a coach or mentor. Participate. Make an effort to understand your team members. Be candid with your team. Be excellent. Have fun! Spend as much time on campus as you can. Grab hold of opportunities to engage with an extraordinary staff team. Be nice to Pamela the librarian at the School.


YC - Don’t procrastinate! The MBA is a tough course with heavy workloads and deadlines of the subjects very close to each other. To manage the workload, it is imperative for students to plan their semesters ahead. Be sure to complete the assignments at least a week ahead of the deadline as there is always the chance that something will go wrong.


Your team is a very integral and important part of your MBA. If you are lucky you end up in a team of like-minded individuals with the same work ethic and goals you have. If not, you have your work cut out for you but all is not lost. After all, you are enrolled in the MBA programme because you want to be a better manager. Managing your team and the team’s environment is the first step you need to master on your way to achieving your MBA. Team work, trust in your team mates to do their work and on time, supporting team mates when things get tough and managing the team is everybody’s responsibility. Nobody knows what you are going through more than your teammates. Ensuring your team performs is essential to succeeding with your MBA.


Prepare for the classes ahead of time. The lecture will have so much more meaning if you walk into the lecture hall with prior knowledge. Doing an MBA is not just about going to class and expecting to soak up the information. You need to be able to apply the theory in practice. This can only be done though prior learning. Being informed also allows you to partake in the class debates. Confidence breeds in knowledge. It will be beneficial if students are able to see the connection between all the subjects early on. There is a definite link. This is something I only understand now that I am attempting my treatise!